The castle was erected at the beginning of the 12th century by Wizo, a Flemish mercenary from which the building also got its name. Wizo origin is unclear, but probably members of his family were part of the entourage of the Flemish wife of William the Conqueror, queen Matilda. During the reign of Henry I, many such newcomers were a burden at the royal court, while in southwest Wales there were fights against Anglo-Normans, which gave the chance for fame and gaining wealth. Wizo and his family came to Pembrokeshire, an area that was captured by Arnulf de Montgomery, Earl of Shrewsbury in 1093. Earl founded the stronghold in Pembroke, and in the following years he expanded and secured his territory by building more strongholds. The castle, originally known as Castellum Wiz, was one of those strongholds. It was in an area that later became known as the Landsker line, the border of the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman rule in Pembrokeshire, and thus the line dividing the indigenous Welsh from Anglo-Norman colonists.
In the 12th and early 13th century, Wiston was on the front line between the Anglo-Normans and the Welsh. In 1147 it was conquered, due to the deception of Lord William fitz Gerald, who had joined forces with sons of Gruffydd ap Rhys ap Tewdwr, ruler of Deheubarth. Then the castle passed to Philip de Gwys (descendants of Wizo took over the Welsh Gwys form of the name), but in 1193 it suffered damages during the invasion of Hywel Sais, who managed to take prisoner the lord and his family. The castle was recaptured two years later. Another attack, this time in 1220, was carried out by Llywelyn ap Iorwerth, and the castle was burned. Reconstruction of the stronghold taken on the order of king Henry III by William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, led to the exchange of timber fortifications to stonework.
Historical sources are silent about the fate of the castle after 1231 and therefore it is assumed that even in the Middle Ages (probably the fourteenth century) it was abandoned. However, there was a manor in the settlement, which passed from the descendants of Wizo to the Wogan family. They owned it until 1794 and at one point they had to move from the old castle to the new mansion. The castle certainly existed in some form until the 17th century civil war, because the abandoned place was occupied by royalist troops in 1643. The defeat of the royal army at the Battle of Colby Moor in 1644 caused the withdrawal of the garrison from Wiston.
The castle was originally built from earth and timber, and also earth ramparts existing since the Iron Age, have been used. A 9-12 meter high mound (motte) was erected, on which a timber tower was erected, surrounded by a palisade. The dry ditch surrounded the base of the mound and separated it from the oval outer bailey.
After 1220, the wooden fortifications of the motte were rebuilt into a 16-sided stone wall (shell keep) of a thickness about 1.6 meters above the plinth. It closed an inner courtyard with a diameter of about 12 meters, with a semicircular gate portal on the south side. The internal buildings remained mostly wooden, as well as the fortifications of the outer bailey, which functioned at the base of the mound, was oval in plan, placed in flat, extensive area measuring 125 x 80 meters.
In the later period of the 13th century, a room was built on the first floor above the gate, as indicated by the remains of the stairs. Certainly, there was also an access to the wall-walk for the defenders, stretching in the crown along the walls, which were topped with a parapet and battlement. At a later stage, the walls were also thickened by about 0.6 meters, and in the courtyard there were transverse walls built, probably elements of residential buildings.
Wiston is considered one of the best preserved motte and bailey castles in Wales. The earth mound, the surrounding moat (ditch) and the earth ramparts of the outer bailey have been preserved in very good condition. At the top of the mound, there are also stone relics of fortifications from the 13th century. The castle is maintained by the Cadw government agency and available free of charge throughout the year.
Kenyon J., The medieval castles of Wales, Cardiff 2010.
Salter M., The castles of South-West Wales, Malvern 1996.
Website castlesfortsbattles.co.uk, Wiston Castle.